Rokugan: Shadow Creeping
The Elemental Council of Five
The Phoenix Elemental Masters of Magic
The Elemental Council of Five led the Phoenix Clan and the Isawa family since the 1st century after Isawa joined the Kami Shiba’s fledgling clan. New Masters were generally chosen one of two ways. Ideally, the outgoing Master would have a named successor who would take the seat without controversy upon the Master’s death or retirement. Otherwise, upon the death of a Master, the remaining Masters would decide upon the replacement.
In the beginning, all claimants to the Master’s seat were required to fight to the death to settle the claim. In this manner, a clear victory would be seen and all who might have opposed his succession would be eliminated. Using this method, it was very obvious who the most powerful shugenja was, but the killing of powerful shugenja created an unnecessary drain on the family’s resources. Today, multiple claimants often competed in harmless tests of skill instead.
The Phoenix Clan Champion speaks for the Phoenix in the courts and on the battlefields of Rokugan, but the Council tells the Champion what to say. The Elemental Masters hold sway not only over their elements and magic as a whole, but also over the Phoenix. Depending on the demeanors of the Champion and the Masters at any given time, the Champion might have great sway in the affairs of his clan, but the Council truly holds the power within the Phoenix.
By tradition the Phoenix Champion stands in a position equal to the Elemental Council in matters of war, and was subject to their dictates in times of peace.
The Council of Five continues their attempts to understand the dark influences spreading across the Empire; especially what they believe to be an unnatural plague beginning to flare up in Scorpion Lands. They sent Isawa Tadaka into the Shadowlands to discover the source of the evil presence. He has not yet returned.
Master of Air
The elderly Isawa Eju has been Master of Air for many years but due to a debilitating illness that has left him crippled, he has lost the use of his arms and legs entirely, his apprentice, Isawa Uona, has been tending to his duties.
Isawa Uona was born into an unremarkable family of Isawa shugenja. She was a beautiful and skilled girl, so her parents believed that she could bring honor to the clan by becoming a courtier rather than a shugenja. At seven years of age, Uona was sent for training to the Artisan Academy of the Kakita family. While there, she excelled in dance, song, and especially haiku. Her career as an artisan seemed certain.
Uona’s time with the Crane artisans came to an abrupt end when she met Asahina Tomo, the aged Crane Clan master shugenja. Tomo recognized within Uona a dormant but potent magical ability. He brought Uona to a ritual that should have awakened the dormant kami around her. The ritual succeeded, but released far more power than the aged Crane had anticipated.
The sudden attention left her more than a little egotistical. She acts shy outwardly, but inwardly the apprentice is quite proud of her duties and responsibilities, confidently believing that she is the best choice for the position once Master Eju passes away.
Despite the pacifism of the Phoenix Clan, and despite the relatively non-combatant nature of Air magic, Uona once saved a party of Crab scouts from an oni along the River of the Last Stand. The Crab, who were housing her as she searched for the wayward Isawa Tadaka, were impressed both at her power and the control that let her handle the situation without needless violence, thereby maintaining her pacifistic principles.
Master of Earth
Isawa Tadaka is an enigmatic and sinister person, scarred by dark magics and has a burning desire for revenge against the forces of the Shadowlands, especially Oni no Akuma, the stealer of his ancestor’s name. He is bigger than the average shugenja. His understanding of the element of earth made him as large as many bushi. He is inquisitive and humble, eager to share his knowledge and add the knowledge of others to his own.
Tadaka is a descendant of the reviled shugenja Isawa Akuma. Tadaka takes it as a personal insult that there exists a beast within the Shadowlands that, centuries earlier, had stolen his ancestor’s name in order to secure its own existence. Tadaka has devoted his life to finding and destroying Oni no Akuma. In 1117, still an Acolyte of Earth, Tadaka traveled to the Crab to study with the Kuni family. There, the spirit of Akuma appeared to the young Tadaka. The apparition was bound and silent, but Tadaka understood that the poor soul was begging for his help to restore his name. This is the point at which Tadaka’s obsession with Oni no Akuma began. He spent every available moment — and many he should not have spared — to studying the Shadowlands, discovering the rituals of its denizens, observing the creatures there, and attempting to find the oni that stole his ancestor’s name.
After having spent far more time with the Kuni than originally planned, Tadaka was called truant and tracked down by no less than the Master of Earth, Isawa Rujo. Rujo found the wayward shugenja, challenged his research, and even questioned the validity of his quest. Tadaka was furious and challenged the Master to a duel. The stakes he set were high: the loser would renounce his fealty to the Phoenix Clan and become forever ronin, and the winner would be Master of Earth. Rujo agreed.
Tadaka handily defeated the Master. Rujo was cast from the Phoenix, per their agreement, and Tadaka became Master of Earth in his place. The Council of Five was somewhat shaken by the outcome, but in the end, they were not disappointed. They saw Rujo as arrogant for entering a duel that he lost, and were not upset at his departure because of that. Tadaka saw his new position as an opportunity to more fully search for Oni no Akuma, which led him to be absent from the rulership of the clan quite frequently, allowing the Council to continue greatly in the manner to which they had already become accustomed.
Master of Fire
Isawa Tsuke was one of the most powerful shugenja ever to walk Rokugan. He holds the power to single-handedly level buildings, destroy armies, and mete out justice to all of those he deems, by his own authority, unworthy. Most consider Tsuke malicious and ruthless. Tsuke, however, believes himself to be an honorable but stern ruler, forced to take charge because no one else is as capable as he.
Prior to his position as an Elemental Master, Tsuke used his power for many years in the direct service of the Emperor, serving in the Emerald Magistrates as the chief shugenja of the Emerald Champion. His time there gave him a broad grasp of military and political tactics. His ability to command troops in time of war was unquestioned. His time there also gave him a sizable reputation as a skilled duelist, despite his profession as a shugenja. Unfortunately for the image of the Phoenix Clan, his time there also spread his reputation as a ruthless, coldhearted despot.
By 1120, Tsuke was the second-most experienced member of the Council, and though Isawa Ujina is longer-serving, his illness has left Tsuke largely in control of the Council. Tsuke truly despises his fellow Masters. Though he keeps his opinions to himself, Tsuke considers them to be weak because of their pacifism.
Master of Water
Isawa Tomo is a gifted young shugenja, and younger brother of Isawa Tadaka, who became Master of Water at a very early age. Tomo had spent most of his life mesmerized by the waters near his home and across Rokugan, and coupled with the power of his abilities, his appointment to the Council of Five was inevitable. Isawa Tomo became Master of Water upon the retirement of Isawa Kaiyoko. Kaiyoko had long been amazed at the ease with which Tomo was able to commune with the kami. Despite his inexperience at the time, she was quite confident in his ability to properly execute the duties of the position.
Isawa Tomo is known for his love of life, and a childlike exuberance and perspective., He is known for devising creative — some would say outlandish — solutions for problems facing the council. Nevertheless, Tomo has a very keen intellect, and solves problems slowly and methodically, much as water wears on stone. His wisdom is always as welcome as his demeanor.
Master of Void
Isawa Ujina (Deceased) was the father of Isawa Tadaka, Isawa Tomo and Isawa Kaede. He became Master of Void the day after his daughter’s birth. He held the position as long as he could. He is rumored to be dead, killed by a powerful sorcerer. Isawa Kaede is rumored to be the most likely candidate for the position, but it is currently vacant.
Ujina grew quickly into a tall, slender boy. He was fast and agile, and showed great promise with a sword. Everyone knew, however, that swordplay would be only a hobby for the boy, as he showed great promise not only as a shugenja, but as a Void shugenja. He was approached by the Master of Void when he was eight years old to begin his training as an Ishiken. When the Master of Void came to his parents’ home, though young Ujina had never seen the man before, he treated him with the familiarity of a favorite grandfather. Though Isawa Nodari was embarrassed by his son’s actions, the Master explained that he did know the boy intimately, through their connection in the Realm of Void. The Master explained the need for Ujina to come and study with him and learn to control his powers, and Nodari quickly agreed.
For ten years, Ujina studied with the Master. His gempukku came and went, and though Ujina did return to his home and family for the ceremony, it meant little to him. His training began when it was necessary and ended when it was finished. It was less a coming of age ceremony for him; to Ujina it was simply an occasion to see his family again. At the age of nineteen, Ujina returned home to his family. His father insisted that he be treated with the respect due his station, but Ujina could sense every person’s dreams unfolding and their blood flowing; he could not bring himself to be an elitist because of the station of his birth when he knew so intimately that he was truly no different than any other person he met.
When he was twenty, Ujina met Doji Ninube, the daughter of a Crane Clan nobleman whose lands bordered Ujina’s fathers. The two became enamored with each other and were engaged to be married. Two months before their wedding, Ninube was taken during a journey to see her fiancée. Ujina was touching the Void at the time, and found himself in a strange situation where the world around him froze in place and the details bled away. It lasted for only a moment, until Ujina heard her voice calling his name, then the world returned to normal in a rush of colors and sensations. Ujina did not know what had happened, but for the first time in his adult life, he was afraid. Ujina would not embrace the Void again for many days. Ninube did not arrive as scheduled. Four days after she should have come to his home, Ujina reached into the Void to find her, but he found nothing. It was not simply as if she had been lost or killed, but as if she had never existed. A Dragon Magistrate named Kitsuki Kaagi.went with Ujina in search of Ninube. They found and rescued her, but the things they saw during their quest made Ujina fearful for the second time in his adult life. Additionally, Ujina lost his right arm and was scarred terribly attempting to save Ninube. He never spoke of how the injuries were sustained.
Life for Isawa Ujina did not improve. Soon after his wedding, his father took ill with an unknown but rapidly debilitating disease. It was sometime later that his wife gave birth to his first child. It was at this time that Ujina realized that it was not truly his wife that had given him a child. He went into room where the child had been delivered and looked at Ninube. He had trouble recognizing his wife, and even then, realized that he recognized her as someone whom he had known years before, not someone with whom he had daily spent the last several years. Ujina handed his daughter to the midwife and sent the pair from the room.
Returning to his wife, he found that it was difficult to see her face at all, and that her features seemed to bleed away at the edges of his focus. He did not know what the thing lying in the birthing bed was, but speaking with it, he found that it had killed his father and his fiancée. Ujina promised to destroy it, but the thing replied that Ujina could not destroy that which he did not know. With that, the figure flew forward, sending dark barbs flying at Ujina. He twisted and absorbed the blow with the already-ruined right half of his body. Ujina then told the thing that he did know her: she was his daughter’s mother. With that, he reached into the Void and unmade the creature. Ujina went downstairs to where the midwife had his child. He took his daughter and told her, “You are Isawa Kaede. And you will grow strong and happy.” With his words, some of the darkness retreated from the eyes of the infant and she began to make the soft, normal noises that babies make. Ujina turned to the midwife and told her never to speak of the incident again. The woman only nodded. The next day, the Master arrived. “You have seen through the last illusion,” he told Ujina. “You are the Master of Void now.”
The barbs with which his first wife attacked him on the morning of Kaede’s birth were highly poisonous. The plague they carried was one of darkness, and it would fight Ujina for the rest of his life. Ujina kept the darkness in check merely through the force of his will and his control of the Void.
A year after the death of Ninube, Ujina married Isawa Ieku. She bore him Isawa Tadaka and Isawa Tomo, but she was never fully accepted by Ujina. Ujina felt that she could not understand him because of the knowledge that was imparted to him through the Realm of Void. Ujina apparently desired her companionship, but felt that his calling created too large a rift between them.
In 1121 Ujina took the post of resident master shugenja in the Phoenix Embassy at Otosan Uchi. He had sensed a hole in the Void in the west side of the Enchanted Wall beside the Karada district. Ujina guessed it was created by the presence of the same force or presence that consumed his first wife.
Before his death, he also spoke of visions of dark times if the Lion and Crane were to go to War..
Master of Void Heir Apparent
After her gempukku, Isawa Kaede became an Adept of Void, her father’s personal apprentice and heir apparent. There is little doubt that the young woman would one day become Mistress of Void. She stands little over five feet in height. Her eyes and hair are black as jet, and her skin is a darker complexion than is normal for her family. Her dark appearance led her half-brothers to call her “little shadow” as a child until their father made them stop. She is engaged to Akodo Toturi, the Lion Clan Champion. It was an arranged marriage, when both were infants, and Kaede has only met the man briefly.